Ben Mantle’s Best Christmas Present Ever! A Look Behind the Book…

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 Ben Mantle started his career in animation, from working on Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, to BAFTA award winning CBeebies show Big and Small. We are very happy to say he has found his true calling in picture books — with a style both quirky and comical, he uses a beautiful colour palette — sensitive to the story he is telling.

Ben will be joining us at The Bright Emporium this month to begin the festivities in the countdown to Christmas, with his much loved picture book, The Best Christmas Present Ever!

In great anticipation of this, here’s a bit more about Ben, the Squirrel and the Bear..!


 Where did the idea come from?

 Well, it seemed like a natural progression after The Best Birthday Present Ever! For me to do another book about present giving, and you don’t get more present-y (probably not a real word) than Christmas time. I knew if there was going to a second book that I wanted to flip the story around. The first book had Squirrel frantically searching for a present for Bear, so this time it is Bear struggling to make a special gift for Squirrel. In both books the presents are catalysts for Bear and Squirrel to spend time together and more importantly have lots of fun. Also, I’m a HUGE fan of Christmas, and so this book is about celebrating that magical time of year.

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From The Best Birthday Present Ever, written and illustrated by Ben Mantle.

 You started out your career in animation, with some incredible experience – such as working with Tim Burton. What made you decide to choose children’s picture books?

 Whilst working in Animation, I always leaned towards the pre-production side of things. I really enjoyed designing the characters and backgrounds for animations and working on the storyboards. I would spend my spare time creating pictures for exhibitions and they were always based around a story.  I would think up an entire backstory for the characters, even when it would never be seen, so picture books felt like the perfect fit.

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 I really like your colour palette – it’s warm and clear – what’s your technique, and does your background in animation play a big part in your composition and layout?

 I guess my animation background has had an impact on my art style. In the earlier part of my career, it was definitely Animation art that inspired the way I was working. I would spend a lot of time looking at how my favourite concept artists would use colour to set a certain atmosphere or evoke a specific feeling. For The Best Christmas Present Ever! I wanted the palette to be very cosy. There’s nothing better in winter than being snuggled up by a roaring fire or playing in the sparkling iridescent snow outside. So the colours I chose were all about evoking those wintery settings and blue and yellow work so nicely together.

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 As an animator, could we hope to see your picture books coming to life on the screen in the future?

I won’t lie, that would be a dream come true for me! Ever since I have been working in children’s books I have wanted to create something that could make that leap from book to screen. I think about my books as little films in my head anyway, that has just always been the way I have worked. My most recent authored books, about a team of Dinosaur space explorers called The Dinostars, is very much inspired by my love of classic 80’s cartoons and I would very much like to see that as an animated series.

Read about the making of Dinostars.

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From Dinostars and the Planet Plundering Pirates, written and illustrated by Ben Mantle.

Read about the Dinostars book launch at The Bright Emporium.

 What’s next on the horizon for you?

I’m currently working on a new book with Macmillan that I am very excited about It is a modern take on a classic fairy tale story, the text is rhyming and is hilarious, but I probably can’t say too much about it! And I’m also working on a new book by Linda Sarah, which is very poignant and beautiful and I’m developing the look and feel of the book at the moment.

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A beautiful example of Ben’s colour palette.


If you’d like to work with Ben, you can reach him via his agent, Arabella Stein here.

Follow Ben on Twitter @BenMMantle
And Facebook Ben Mantle Illustration


Storytime Sunday 27th November…

Meet Ben Mantle and get a personally signed copy of The Best Christmas Present Ever! Find more information and book your ticket here.

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From Rudey’s Windy Christmas By Helen Baugh, illustrated by Ben Mantle.